To celebrate the Impact Journalism initiative, The Huffington Post recently featured an eye-opening story on Uganda's sack garden phenomenon.
The story spotlights the thriving home garden business of Harriet Nakabaale from Kawaala, a suburb of Kampala, the country's capital. Even though her one-bedroom house sits on a tiny stretch of land measuring 30 feet wide and 50 feet long, Harriet has found a way to utilize every inch of space to grow food, and lots of it.
The 45-year-old uses a method called sack farming, a technique she learned from her parents. The name comes from the giant sacks, dumped in her neighborhood by local businesses, which she re-uses as the containers for her crops. Harriet also grows plants out of soda bottles and even egg shells. She uses black soil and gravel stones, also collected for free, as the foundation for her plants.
Harriet describes the process further, explaining:
"Given that I have always had a poultry house, I was able to compost chicken manure that had accumulated in the coop. This I mixed with black soil to enrich the soil. But I did not just fill the sacks with the soil, I had to place small pebble stones at the middle of the sack, right from bottom to top, then filled the sack with soil leaving the stones erect in the middle."
She even uses the sides of the sacks for growing:
“Usually the crops with big roots like carrots go on the top and the sides are reserved for those with small roots like ordinary vegetables. I water my sack garden almost on a daily basis so I have no such a thing as a crop growing season. My garden is ever green, even during the dry season."
Harriet's garden is home to a variety of crops including spinach, dodo, carrots, spring onions, celery, tomatoes, and even a guava tree.
Not only does the flourishing garden provide food for her own family of four, Harriet is also able to make money selling produce to other families, selling seedlings, and instructing others on how to create their own sack gardens.
Richard Mugisha, an agricultural consultant at AgriProFocus Uganda, explains the benefits of sack farming in many urban areas affected by poverty:
“We need people, especially in the urban areas to engage in agriculture, regardless of limited land. And the answer is sack farming. It is simple to carry out and not economically straining to start. Sack gardening does not call for big space. Furthermore, one gets to harvest all year long as sack farming waits for no rain but only calls for a bit of watering."
With fruit and vegetable prices off the charts in supermarkets, the principles of sack gardening are promising for the rest of the world as well. With hard work and ingenuity, anyone with a little bit of land can start growing his or her own produce. Save money, get healthier, and be in control of the quality of your produce as well. If you grow your own food and have some comments or tips, let us know. Get dirty and start planting!